The Bizzare Darkness that is Mary Poppins Returns: A Review


Keely Jordan

The movie’s poster hangs outside Patriot Cinemas.

Keely Jordan, Contributing Writer

Over the past few years, Disney has been largely successful with its live-action remakes and sequels of timeless classics. Their reimaginings have all been big hits at the box office, with their highest grossing ringing in at $504.1 million. However, when Disney announced it was making a sequel to its classic, and arguably most successful live-action movie, Mary Poppins, the reactions of fans varied. Some were thrilled to see the story continued, and others were puzzled as to how Disney could ever top the original. Everyone, however, was interested in seeing the direction that Disney would go in the making of this movie.

Author Pamela Lyndon Travers wrote many other books in the Mary Poppins series that Disney’s 1964 movie was based on. In fact, there are 11 books in total, including the first and most famous book, simply titled Mary Poppins. Though Mary Poppins Returns is not the title of one of the books, there is one called Mary Poppins Comes Back. This book is what the movie is loosely based off of. The movie is relatively faithful to the book; however, the timing in the movie makes it relatively inaccurate. For example, Abigale, Michael Bank’s daughter in the movie, is actually his sister in the book. But aside from the necessary changes to make a book into a movie, the movie is essentially as close to the book as it can be.

After a charming opening number sung by Lin Manuel Miranda, the movie begins on a rather dark note. We learn that Michael Banks has lost his wife and is now struggling to raise his three children on his own. It is also shocking to see that he is under the threat of losing his home, a relatively dark subject matter for a sequel to a children’s movie about a magic nanny. We also see Michael throw out his childhood kite, a symbol of great importance in the last film. The kite leads to the arrival of Mary Poppins, flying in on a kite string. Her arrival leads to the sad discovery that Jane and Michael have stopped believing in Mary Poppins’ magical abilities. Unlike the previous film, Mary Poppins is displayed to be quite passive-aggressive. There is even an entire song where she sings repeatedly, “Can you imagine that?” in reference to believing in impossible things. Though the first movie seemed to hint at the fact that the majority of the film is in the children’s imaginations, this film flat out says that. It is declared that Mary Poppins’ magical abilities are entirely in the children’s heads. So, the film has a rather dismal start.

One big difference between Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Returns is that the 2018 film has a clear villain. This takes a very different direction than the original and leaves some fans confused. Also, the motivations of the villain are quite bizarre, as the villain simply wants to evict people from their homes to gain money. There is no reasoning behind why he wants to do this, because he owns a very successful bank. It appears as if his motivations are that he is just evil. Even the animated segments have a clear villain depicted a wolf that represents the live-action villain in the movie.

The animated segment itself has a much more sinister tone than the dancing with penguins seen in the first movie. Though it contains a very nice musical number in which the penguins are reprised, the tone of the segment is overall very disturbing, especially at the end. The segment concludes with a high-speed chase scene in which various animated characters try to kill the Banks children. During this chase scene, two animated characters are thrown off the roof of a high-speed car and are hit with a rock. As we never see them again they are presumed to be dead. This scene is the darkest in the film and could be quite terrifying to younger children who are easily scared. Though the scene was revealed to have all been a dream it still is a very creepy mood for a children’s movie and the subject matter proves disturbing.

Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins is seen as more of a comforter than a teacher in the way Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins is. This version helps the children cope with the loss of their mother and soothes their fears and nightmares about losing their house. The first and second acts contain few whimsical scenes that connect little to the plot. These sections are placed sporadically between intense scenes of dark, harsh reality. In one scene Michael Banks is shown crying over the loss of his wife while the music is cut out and a depressing mood hangs in the air.

Still, there are some nice visuals. The song numbers are beautifully choreographed and the songs, while not memorable, are fun and light-hearted. The child acting is wonderful. Aside from Lin Manuel Miranda, the children were by far the best part of the film.

The third act is quite different from the rest of the movie. It is perfectly uplifting in the end and all results happily. The ending is truly beautiful, inspired, sentimental, and nostalgic. It perfectly captures the spirit of the original movie. The leary song, in particular, is a wonderful homage to the chimney sweep song of the original. The actors are perfectly cast and their performances make the movie worth seeing. The dark tone leads to a wonderful payoff and the villain is defeated in the end. The happiness of the ending almost overrides the disturbing nature of the beginning and middle. In the end, magic is declared as real and Mary Poppins is said not to be a figure of the kids’ imagination. Though, it does state that the adults will forget about her when the day is done, which is quite sad.

Overall, the movie has a dark and bizarre tone but a nice ending. I would recommend it to older children and adult fans of the original. Parents should heed the PG rating and avoid bringing younger children to see it as some scenes can be quite intense. Freshman Eoin Darlington states that the film “reached lots of standards a movie should, and it is especially good for being a sequel to such a great original movie.” Darlington correctly states that the film was wonderful for being a sequel.

It is clear that a lot of time and effort was put into the making of this film. Another freshman named Georgia Smith said that “Mary Poppins Returns is an amazing spinoff of the childhood classic Mary Poppins. The songs are beautifully written and it’s fun to see all the favorite characters return! Overall it was an awesome movie and lived up to the hype.” Though the original, like its title character, was practically perfect in every way, Mary Poppins Returns was overall a nice sequel, though the dark tone can leave a bad impression on some die-hard fans of the original.